Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Pauses Between the Notes

Book Review: The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomon

"Music isn't just notes; it's also filled with rests or measured silences. We wait during the pauses, listening to the possibility of music."

Shortly before starting on Natasha Solomons' The House at Tyneford, I had come across the Wikipedia article on the Dorset 'ghost village' of Tyneham. After reading the summary of the book, I realized that the connection was tenuous, but I took a chance and ordered The House at Tyneford anyway, promised at least a classic English setting.

The early parts of the story reminded me of The Mirador, Elisabeth Gille's autobiographical novel set in roughly the same time period. The years between the wars only sharpened the issues that had brought about the First World War - the "War to End All Wars" was only a prelude. Those holding onto the remnants of the imperial lifestyle, like the Landaus, were torn apart, literally and figuratively.

Once Elise Landau arrives in England, the story centers on the changes that any immigrant would face - learning a new language, a new culture, and new values. In addition, Elise has been forced to make a huge change in her own class status as well. Ms. Solomons does an excellent job of portraying both her characters frustration and naivete. In doing so she manages to find the middle ground - relaying enough details to allow us to feel the character, yet in turn allowing us to fill in the blanks with our own feelings, to see the possibilities of the character'

While written from the viewpoint of a female character, the story is accessible to male readers as well. Some emotions are universal, even if our reactions to them are personal. Love, loss, fear, courage, and pride are not divided by gender, and the author helps us find the ground common to us all.